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Prion Infectivity and PrPBSE in the Peripheral and Central Nervous System of Cattle 8 Months Post Oral BSE Challenge

After oral exposure of cattle with classical bovine spongiform encephalopathy (C-BSE), the infectious agent ascends from the gut to the central nervous system (CNS) primarily via the autonomic nervous system. However, the timeline of this progression has thus far remained widely undetermined. Previous studies were focused on later time points after oral exposure of animals that were already 4 to 6 months old when challenged. In contrast, in this present study, we have orally inoculated 4 to 6 weeks old unweaned calves with high doses of BSE to identify any possible BSE infectivity and/or PrPBSE in peripheral nervous tissues during the first eight months post-inoculation (mpi). For the detection of BSE infectivity, we used a bovine PrP transgenic mouse bioassay, while PrPBSE depositions were analyzed by immunohistochemistry (IHC) and by protein misfolding cyclic amplification (PMCA). We were able to show that as early as 8 mpi the thoracic spinal cord as well as the parasympathetic nodal ganglion of these animals contained PrPBSE and BSE infectivity. This shows that the centripetal prion spread starts early after challenge at least in this age group, which represents an essential piece of information for the risk assessments for food, feed, and pharmaceutical products produced from young calves.



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